21st Century Learning
Ontario
Resources and Ideas For Bringing More Creativity Into Your Classroom

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So this year is quickly coming to the end with some schools already having discharged their students and other schools finishing off the last couple of weeks. However, we all know that when one years ends, another is just beginning as teachers reflect on the past year and think about the things they would like to change when school re-opens in the fall.

This is a great time to begin thinking about adding some more creativity into your class/school. Often we feel overwhelmed hearing the keywords, “21st Century learning”, “project based learning”, “problem-based learning”, etc. Many teachers believe that that means having to do a radical overhaul of their program, throwing out everything they have done and built during their years of teaching.

However, it doesn’t have to be that hard to add a few creative touches to your classroom programs to bring some creativity and some 21st century learning into the classroom. Check out some of the resources below that I have found helpful in my classroom and in my planning for next year.

Think

Think is a great site I have used extensively over the years. The teacher who runs the site believes that “we prepare children for the 21st century by challenging them to think outside of the box. Challenge your children to play, create, design, imagine, and explore. Allow them to learn through experimentation.”

Throughout the blog, she poses challenges to students to build things, solve problems and work collaboratively to think creatively and outside the box. As an example, she will supply a list of materials to use (and you can only use those materials) to build things like a snowball catapult, a one man band, a bridge and other items. My kids loved building the snowball catapult and we had lots of fun testing down the hallways of the school in front of the office (we also got lots of kudos from parents, enjoying seeing the students so engaged in cool activities.) I often made these projects a term assignment and encouraged parents to work together with the kids as a family project, which they enjoyed. I did this knowing that the creations might come back “too perfect” but I was only awarding marks for having completed the project on time; not for the project itself. I am definitely considering making this an in-class project.

The blog has lots of other great projects, with a great archive of past materials and pictures of completed projects sent in by users around the world. She also has a list of great resources to tap into if you enjoy doing the projects here and want to do more along the same lines.

 

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Check out: Think

 

Destination Imagination

A new site to me, this is the only pay one of the three. This site is an educational program where student teams solve open-ended Challenges and present their solutions at tournaments. In working to solve our Challenges, teams learn important life skills like time management, collaboration, conflict resolution, and creative and critical thinking. While it can be a little pricy, the program looks great and a lot of fun! The added tournament aspect also gives a sense of purpose to the concept for the kids. This program is set up to work as an after-school club which might be a great idea for those teachers looking to be involved in something after school. From the looks of things, they have chapters all over North America. You can see video from past events and more explanation about the program at their website.

 

A team from Colorado uses teamwork to fix a prop.

Check out: Destination Imagination

 

Engage Their Minds

Another relatively new site to me, this blog by another teacher who “felt, for some time, that there is a real need for learning to become more “customized”, and that many teachers are eager to find tools for doing this”. Her blog has lots of great resources on adding more creativity in the classroom, including the “Genius Hour”, which she set up along the lines of the Google 20% philosophy. If you haven’t heard about what Google does, you can check out this great article here but basically Google has created a work environment where:

  • 70% of time should be dedicated to core business tasks.
  • 20% of time should be dedicated to projects related to the core business.
  • 10% of time should be dedicated to projects unrelated to the core business..

In the classroom, the Genius Hour was built into the week as a time when students chose projects and topics they were interested and curious about. They selected the project themselves and worked on it throughout the year, culminating in a finished project and presentation to the rest of the students and parents. In the section focused exclusively on the Genius Hour, there are great resources on doing Genius Hour in your own classroom along with lots of tips and advice culled from her own experiences implementing it in her own hour. I am planning on implementing this in the fall probably in partnership with another class and using the amazing diy.org site to help students with the project selection process. The rest of the site has lots of great ideas for classroom projects and you can subscribe to her weekly emails to get ideas delivered right to your mailbox.

Check out: Engage Their Minds

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If you are interested in more thoughts on using the idea of a Google 20% in your class, check out these other sites: